Dir: Guillaume Canet. Fr. 2006. 125mins.
Actor Guillaume Canettackles his second film as director with TellNo One, a slickly confected adaptation of Harlan Coben'ssuspense bestseller about a widower who opens a Pandora's Box of family secretsand violent death. Credibly transposed to France, it has the dynamic rhythm ofa good chase thriller even if it finally sinks under the weight of a strained,convoluted plot that requires a climactic reel to explicate it all.
Canet raised hopes with his 2002 directorial debut My Idol, a satire about TVprofessionals, which he also co-wrote and in which he co-starred. Although Tell No One confirms Canetas a director to follow, it is less distinguished and personal than his debut andfeels more like a formulaic genre piece.
The film recorded a strong 200,000-plus admissions on its opening day lastweek and drew largely positive notices, with some reviewers delighting in aFrench thriller that beat Hollywood at its own genre game. It should sell well beyondhome, especially where Coben's books are bestsellers:it comes as no surprise to see Hollywood strike back by picking up remakerights and bringing Koben's tale back home.
Alexandre Beck (Cluzet, in a goodadrenaline-driven performance) is a respected Paris paediatrician who never gotover the death of his wife Margot (Croze), presumablyslaughtered by a serial killer at the lakeside site where the couple sharedtheir first kiss as kids. But, eight years later, Beck is shaken when hereceives a mysterious email with a video attachment featuring a woman herecognises as his dead wife. In a second email, he is summoned to a rendezvousin a Paris park.
Meanwhile,the unearthing of two bodies at the lake site lead police to reopen the investigationinto Margot's murder - with Beck now the chief suspect. Tipped off by his lawyer (an authoritative turn by Baye) that his arrest is imminent, and determined to makethe appointment with Margot, Alexandre goes on therun, only to find himself being pursued by a band of killers who also want tofind Margot.
Canet and his regular co-screenwriter Philippe Lefebvrehave tried to shoehorn an over-complex plot, too many different viewpoints and atop-heavy cast of characters into an overripe two hours. As a result theyrelegate key backstory elements to off-screen eventsor flashbacks (the 'accidental' death of Beck's father) and reducesome players to glorified cameos (Rochefort'shorse-breeder politico and Canet himself as hisbrutal son).
Other characters, such as aninner-city hood who helps Beck and the sadistic female assassin with deadlyfingers, are dismissed a bit too hurriedly. The tension flags noticeably in thelast third of the film, particularly when the main guilty party begins an anti-climacticreview of events.
But until then Canet directs Tell NoOne with visible relish as he moves the pursued and his pursuers across asocial chessboard of Paris, aided by crisp, roving camerawork and razor-sharpediting.
The best set piece is apavement-pounding chase through northern Paris, over the busy belt highway andinto the maze of the Paris Flea Market. And there is a knowing wink to recentevents in France when a gang of youths save Beck by attacking police cars asthey venture into their housing estate conclave.
Among the supporting cast, FrancoisBerleand is fine as the obsessive-compulsive cop andAndre Dussollier ambiguous as Beck's still painedfather-in-law. Marina Hands (currently triumphing in the title role of Pascale Ferran's Lady Chatterley) and Kristin ScottThomas lend concerned moral support as Beck's sister and her lover. Marie-Josee Croze fulfils her functionsas the 'ghost' wife with warm melancholy.s
Productions du Tresor
based on the novel by Harlan Koben
Herve de Luze
Kristin Scott Thomas